We’ve all heard that before, along with ‘wait your turn,’ and ‘just be patient.’ But for John Schob — a man who wanted to forge a career in golf — it wasn’t much of a wait at all.
John became the head pro at Huntington Crescent Club in 1976 at the ripe old age of 24. Upon taking the job, he could never have guessed that he would still hold that position 41 years later. This past December, John Schob retired after quite a ride at the Huntington Crescent Club. We sat down with him for an enjoyable ride of our own.
Golfing Magazine: Let’s start with the years immediately prior to taking the job at Huntington Crescent Club. What was happening in your life at that time?
John Schob: Well, I came out of college in 1974. I had gone to Rutgers where I was captain of the golf team. Those were wonderful years. While I was in school, during the summers I worked as a ranger at Rock Hill in Manorville, driving there from my home in Bay Shore. Even as a ranger, I sensed that golf was where I belonged.
When I graduated from Rutgers in ‘74, I gave myself five years in the golf business to see how I liked it, and how far I could take it. After graduating, I took the position as Assistant Pro at Rock Hill. This brought me into the golf shop, along with giving some lessons – a very valuable experience.
Two years later, a friend of mine named Terry Murphy — a salesman — told me that the longtime pro at Huntington Crescent Club, Lenney Peters, was looking for an assistant pro. Lenney also had the concession at Crab Meadow at the time. When I met with Lenney, he explained the position required working not only at Huntington Crescent Club, but also to spend time at Crab Meadow, a public course.
After taking a prearranged Myrtle Beach golf trip, I came back and learned someone else (John Andrisani) was doing the work at Crab Meadow — and Lenney told me I would be staying with him. I had apparently made a really good impression with Lenney, and it worked out well for all of us.
Toward the end of 1976, Lenney went to the board at Huntington Crescent Club and said it was time to retire … after 36 years there as head pro. He submitted his resignation in the fall, and it was assumed Lenney’s son, who had worked at other clubs, would step in and succeed his dad. I wasn’t even a PGA member yet. I hadn’t earned all my credits at that point. But I got my resume together and decided to apply for head pro anyway. Surprisingly, they gave me an interview … and even more of a surprise, they offered me the job. I knew I could complete my credits to become a Class A PGA member by May of 1977, so that was it.
I had mixed feelings at first … Lenney was such a great mentor, and had a wonderful relationship with the members. But it worked out well.
GM: Let’s talk about your career there in stages … starting with the early years at Huntington Crescent Club from the mid 70s through the mid 80s.
JS: At first, I was in shock to be given that position as head pro at such a prestigious club. I made it my goal to be the best professional I could be for the membership. It didn’t take long to feel as if I was a part of their family. I told the golf chairman I was overwhelmed by the support of everyone there. I was single at the time, and spent most of my time at the club. This was my first experience as a head pro, and first experience at a private club. There were great mentors I had along the way to help me figure it all out. One thing they taught me was to be unafraid to hire people who are better than I am. That way, we all learn from each other — and I’ve done just that.
GM: Now you mentioned that during those early days, you were single. But eventually, that came to an end. There’s a golf story related to how you met your wife, Jean.
JS: Yes. Jean was a golfer, and although she had taken up the game late, she started working for the Met PGA as assistant director to Charlie Robson. At a pro-am, she was at the registration desk … she smiled, and that’s all I needed (laughs).
We dated for 11 years … she lived up in Westchester and I was here on Long Island. Golf is important to her — she started the inner school junior program for the PGA. She had some really big names come to do clinics, including Tiger Woods, Chi Chi Rodriguez, hockey’s John Vanbiesbrouk , the Giants’ Lawrence Taylor , tennis legend Arthur Ashe … and she would invite them to play at Winged Foot, where her parents were members. Eventually, we did get married in 1993.
GM: You mentioned earlier that when you first got started as an assistant pro, and then a head pro, you knew you had a lot to learn. What are some of the most important things you have learned over four decades as a head pro?
JS: There’s an old saying — ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ Every day, there’s seems to be something new, whether it’s new product or new technology. Back when I started, there was no clubfitting, or demo days, or computerized handicaps. The rules of golf were changing, along with merchandising, styles, and more. It wasn’t as easy to keep up without high-tech.
Back in 1978 and 1979, a member of the club who owned a company that did video security asked me if I wanted to be the ‘first on the block’ to use video equipment. He brought me this huge box and big camera … My assistant pro, John Kirschner, and I took video of everybody. We had a large tv monitor at the bar, and we’d play the video of the golfers. This was the first time people were able to actually see their swings. Nowadays, video and TrackMan along with other high-tech tools are such a big part of the game.
GM: How about the changes you’ve seen over 40 years at Huntington Crescent Club?
JS: Well, over the years we experimented a few times with reversing the golf course. After playing the 1st hole, we went to hole #10. Pace of play was the reason we tried that because the back nine plays faster than the front side. But then we studied why architect Devereux Emmet designed the course the way he did in 1930. He wanted to give golfers some easier holes up front to warm up, since many courses in those days didn’t have any driving ranges. So, among the first six holes there are some easier ones — followed by 7 thru 12, six really tough holes.
Back in the 70s, the golf course was relatively short. But as equipment and the golf ball changed to increase distance, a number of holes were lengthened. We actually combined holes 5 and 6 to make it a longer par 4 … and we then found 170 yards back along the perimeter of the course for a par 3. At least half of the holes were lengthened to bring the course from about 6,200 yards to 6,500.
GM: And back to you and your golfing life. Most memorable moments, either at the club or elsewhere?
JS: Certainly, being involved with the Met PGA was very rewarding. They are my family. I went from being on a committee, to being a board member, to becoming president — a position I held for three years, from 1989 to 1991. Those were tremendous years for me. I learned so much from them, as they were the best pros and teachers in the country. I got to play golf with Jim Albus, Mike Joyce, and many others. I can’t say enough about my fellow professionals.
Among my golfing highlights … I’ve had four hole-in-ones overall. My wife has had FIVE. Every time I get to a par 3, I say maybe this will be the time I catch up. I’ve never had one here at the Crescent Club. I do feel as if I have a lot of golf left in me, and my wife and I plan on playing a lot of golf together.
Other memories include the Met PGA events and the pro-ams, which I always enjoyed. I also created my own yearly golf trip with some close friends — members of the club. It started 38 years ago with a trip to Hilton Head … and this past November, we went to Innisbrook in Florida. Other venues included Bay Hill, which was tough … because Arnie (Palmer) was there the first time we went … and then, the next year, Arnie wasn’t there as he had passed away. It’s still very emotional to think of that.
GM: Lastly, as you and your wife move to Westchester, what can you leave behind in terms of advice for the younger PGA professionals based on what you’ve learned and experienced.
JS: It’s all about personality and relationships. The members aren’t all that concerned with how far you hit a golf ball. They want to know what kind of person you are, and that you care for them — not only as a golfer, but as a person. I got to know the members personally, on and off the course. Know them by name.
GM: Congratulations on a wonderful career at Huntington Crescent Club — quite a ride. It certainly has been an incredible 41 years. All the best to you, Jean, and the family, and thanks so much.